By Lou Phelps, Phelps, Cutler & Associates
January 20, 2015 – Civitas Media announced today that Ralph James Martin will be the company’s new Chief Executive Officer. Versa Managing Directors Kamal Advani and Lior Yahalomi have served as interim CEO and President, respectively, since the resignation of the company’s CEO Michael Bush, in November.
Advani and Yahalomi will serve on the Civitas board of directors, according to a press release today by Civitas.
The company, now headquartered in Davidson, NC, is a publisher of more than 100 community newspapers in 12 states. Martin was recruited by Versa Capital Management, LLC (Versa), the company’s controlling shareholder.
Most recently, Martin has been President and CEO of Trib Total Media in Pittsburgh, PA, publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Trib-Live.com, working for Richard Mellon Sciafe, who passed away in July 2014.
Martin began his newspaper career in 1976 with Thomson Newspapers, rising to President and Chief Operation Officer in 1992.
By 1995, he had moved on and taken a leadership position in an investment group’s acquisition of Park Communications, a multi-media company. “In just two short years, Martin orchestrated the sale of the company, which netted the investors significant returns,” according to a bio about Martin published by the PittsburghFellows.com.
In 1997 Martin founded Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI) becoming the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer until resigning in1999. Michael Reed, CNHI’s chief financial officer at the time was named to the post of president and CEO.
In 2003, Martin joined Trib Total Media, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s parent company, beginning as General Manager, and rising to President and CEO until this week.
Martin currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and is a trustee of Robert Morris University. Civitas owns the newspaper company in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
“Ralph’s deep community newspaper experience and his ability to grow businesses strategically and financially will bring the right leadership to Civitas as the organization focuses on delivering the best local news and advertising solutions in its many markets,” stated Gregory Segall, Chairman of the Board of Civitas Media and CEO of Versa, the controlling shareholder, in today’s announcement.
“Ralph also brings a reputation for working well on both the editorial and advertising sides of the business and for creating a team environment. We welcome him to Civitas Media as we thank Kamal and Lior for their leadership and service during this brief transition period.”
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The financial instability of the private-held Trib Total Media company has become public recently due to a lawsuit filed by Sciafe’s children, suing his estate, who claim that since 2005 all of the $210 million that was in the trust in 2005 for their benefit had been drawn down to support the newspaper company.
Estimates run as high as $700 million that Sciafe, reportedly worth $1.4 billion at the time of his death, had pumped into the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review over a number of years to launch and support the daily paper against its competitor, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, owned by the Block family.